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Struggle for Democracy While Stayin

Subject:       Struggle for Democracy While Staying In India.

The following is an interview with a Burmese democratic activist
in India, who actively participated in the nation-wide people's uprising
in 1988. They continue the struggle for democracy while staying in exile
in India as refugees under the mandate of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Here, they talk about their
experiences in the 1988 demonstrations, their living situations,
activities in India and their opinions on the future Burma.

			Interview with  Ko  Kyaw  Kyaw  Htut

Tears, excitement, unbelief and anger overcame my body and
  soul when I found a student lying in a puddle of blood

Ko Kyaw Kyaw Htut, born in Rangoon in 1969, was a Second year Engineering
student of Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) when the uprising broke out
in Burma in 1988. He was one of the foremost students who experienced the
infamous "Riot Police" on the streets of Rangoon on the night of March 13th
1988 - That was our first ever encounter with the authorities, and later it
became the spark for the 1988 people's movement.

After the military took over power in September 1988, Ko Kyaw Kyaw Htut left
for lndo-Burma border area with the aim of taking up armed struggle against
the military government.  He stayed in the Burmese Refugees Camp in Manipur
State of India for three years in March 1992, he moved to New Delhi to
continue his non-violent struggle for the restoration of democracy and human
rights in Burma. He is now working as Joint General Secretary of All Burma
Students League (India).

He strongly believes in the freedom of  expression and the role the
independent media must play in building the future  Burma.

Q: Could you tell me about your first experience at the night of 13th March
A: If it were a dream, it would be a nightmare. Since it was a Sunday, I went
to my Granny's home in Kyaukmyaung and brought a packet of 'Balachaungyaw' to
my hostel in East Gyogon (Suburb of Rangoon). In the evening, I went to my
cousin's hostel in Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT)compound to have
dinner and to ask some questions on calculus.

When we were about to start our dinner, some senior students told us about the
incidence that had occurred the previous day. Two students were severely
beaten in West-Gyogon in a fight with local youths nearby our Institute. And
they the students were hospitalized. The culprits were later identified as kin
of some local administrative VIPs and set free from legal persecution by the

I, like everyone in the dinning hall, got annoyed 'with the police's against
the culprits, and we discussed how we should deal with this unfairness. Before
we could come to any conclusion over the matter, we heard the sound of someone
beating roadside lamp posts, a fire alarm in our country.  So we rushed
towards the side which we presumed to be the source of that alarm.

We saw the tire at the half a kilometer distance in West-Gyogon opposite to
RIT compound, and were mystified about the cause of fire. At first, we thought
it was just an ordinary fire as it was summer after all. When we all tried to
cross the main road to help out the local people, they blocked our way in an
aggressive manner, showing off  dahs (knives),dokes(sticks) and Hlan(spears)
as if we load come to their locality to loot and destroy. Only then we did
realize that this was merely an extension of previous day's fighting between
the two RIT students and local people. We assumed that they load set fire to
the private hostels of RIT students. Later, we came to know that it was the
Cooperative shop that was on fire. Still the cause of fire remains a mystery.

Meanwhile a speedy military or police jeep passed between the local mob and
us. We started throwing stones at it because we were disappointed with the
authorities. Then two or three fire engines arrived. At that time I saw the
rector, professors and lecturers who were persuading us to go back to our
rooms. Some senior students demanded the rector that we wanted to go along
with those fire-fighters to save our cornered student fellows and to put out
fire. It was agreed and the rector signaled to the fire-fighters to come
closer. We all were happy that we had got a chance to do a good job.

But unexpectedly those firemen water-cannoned us and many students, including
me, were throw away from where we had been standing I heard a gun-shot and
someone shouted,"Don't be scared, it was just a shot in to the air".
Consequently I saw and heard the unfamiliar voice of commands, followed by
shooting and sparks coming out of barrels in the dark. I called out my
cousin's name but I heard no reply. For two minutes, I helped the older
students in their stone-throwing by breaking the concrete-plates lying on
platforms. Then I was pushed by one of them saying "Run younger brother, we
have been hit, run zigzag'."

So I obediently followed them and luckily escaped from any bullet-hits. A
white cloud of tear-gas covered the whole of the RIT lawns. Tears, excitement,
unbelief and anger overcame my body and soul when I found a student lying in a
puddle of blood. That was the very event that made me decide not to lay my
foot on the bloodstained portico and RIT compound which I had adored and loved
so much until the irresponsible authorities were punished. It was just an one-
hour event, but it changed the rest of my life.

Q: How do you see the 1988 movement led by the students in Burma?
A: It was a very peaceful movement. It was a tremendous expression of peoples'
desire to enjoy democracy and human rights. I saw the students and people as
one body. At that time, I was in Tamu (in Sagaing Division of Burma) actively
working as the General Secretary of the All Tamu Students Union. We, seven
students, started taking the people to the streets and made several rounds of
the town. I thought the entire population of Tamu were with us, except for
some senior BSPP (the ruling government) people. Within a week, all the
government servants including the armed forces joined us.

We, along with the senior members of the township strike committee, went to
the army camp and persuaded them to join us. Some senior BSPP members
surrendered to the student union by returning their BSPP ID-cards and
declaring that they were no longer the followers of BSPP.

Q: Why and when did you come to India?
A: The first reason is to fight against the Burmese military government. The
second is that we could get a safe place, and overseas help for initiating
armed movement. I came India on 24th September, 1988 i.e six days after the
military coup d'etat. Moreh, India's border town, is only 2 miles far from my
town in Burma.

Q: Now what are your activities in India?
A: After reunification of all Burmese student groups in India, I am now
working for the political establishment of the All Burma Students League's
regional office in North-East India as its Joint-General Secretary. My
activities are mainly to promote mutual understanding and cooperation with the
regional politicians, students and indigenous people who are very important
factors in carrying out the regional office work. I also work on establishing
of human-rights network inside Burma.

Q: How is your personal life in India?

A: I  personally, I do not like even a second of living on this soil. But 1
like the Indian people, particularly their way of life based on tolerance and
non-violence. They took us as one of their own community. I did my diploma in
computer in Delhi.But,I am still in need of adapting myself to the Indian
culture and its way of life. Though I have been residing here for seven years,
I am still fancy-free and footloose. Anyway, it is fine.

Q: How would you like to see future of Burma?

A: I like to see her as a nation of prosperous, progressive and disciplined
citizens with permanent peace and unity. And of course, a peacekeeper and
economic stabilizer to the world. Because we do have enormous untouched
national resources and a 43-million strong productive force. But these 'will
forever remain as dreams if we fail to remove the military rule from the land
and liberate our people from the web of fear and corruption.

It is a long fight and I want it lobe termed as 'national rehabilitation and
reconstruction. If we were lucky enough, we 'will see that those dreams become
true before we die.

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